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Orthopedic Surgeries for Pets: When and Why Your Furry Family Member Might Need Them

Orthopedic surgeries for pets are becoming more common as advances in veterinary medicine continue to improve. These surgeries are performed to help pets lead a better quality of life by addressing various joint, bone, and skeletal issues. In this article, we will discuss the common orthopedic issues in pets, the signs indicating your pet may need orthopedic surgery, different types of orthopedic surgeries, factors to consider before surgery, and postoperative care and rehabilitation.

Common Orthopedic Issues in Pets

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common orthopedic conditions in pets, especially in large dog breeds. It is characterized by the abnormal development of the hip joint, causing pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is another hereditary condition common in large dog breeds. It involves multiple developmental abnormalities in the elbow joint, which can lead to pain, lameness, and arthritis.

Cruciate ligament injury

Cruciate ligament injuries are common in both large and small dog breeds and occur when one of the ligaments in the knee joint is torn or damaged. This injury can cause pain, swelling, and instability in the affected leg.


Fractures, or broken bones, can occur in pets for various reasons, such as accidents, falls, or certain diseases that weaken the bones.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)

OCD is a joint disorder in which the cartilage and underlying bone in a joint fail to develop properly, causing stiffness, pain, and swelling. It commonly affects the shoulder, elbow, and knee joints of young, rapidly growing dogs.

Patellar luxation

Patellar luxation is a condition in which the kneecap dislocates from its normal position. It is commonly seen in small dog breeds and can cause limping, instability, and pain.

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)

IVDD is a degenerative disease affecting the discs between the vertebrae of the spine, causing pain, weakness, and even paralysis in severe cases.

Signs Your Pet May Need Orthopedic Surgery

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms in your pet: 

  • Limping or difficulty walking 
  • Pain or discomfort when moving 
  • Decreased activity and reluctance to play 
  • Stiffness, particularly after rest 
  • Swelling or deformity around joints 

If you notice any of these signs in your pet, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.

Types of Orthopedic Surgeries

Cruciate ligament repair

Various surgical techniques, such as Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO), Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA), and lateral suture stabilization, are used to repair a damaged cruciate ligament, stabilize the knee joint, and promote healing.

Hip dysplasia surgery

Hip dysplasia can be managed with Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO), Double or Triple Pelvic Osteotomy (DPO, TPO), or Total Hip Replacement (THR) in more advanced cases.

Elbow dysplasia surgery

Treatment options for elbow dysplasia include fragment removal, sub-total coronoid ostectomy, and osteochondritis dissecans treatment.

Fracture repair

Fractures are repaired using external fixation, internal fixation with plates and screws, or intramedullary pinning depending on the type and location of the fracture.

Patellar luxation surgery

Surgical techniques like imbrication, trochlear block recession, and tibial tuberosity transposition are used to address patellar luxation.

Spinal surgery for intervertebral disc disease

Surgical decompression or disc removal may be necessary for severe cases of IVDD to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord and treat nerve damage.

Pet Vaccination and Orthopedic Surgery

Although orthopedic issues are primarily focused on bone and joint health, it’s essential to maintain overall pet health through proper vaccination. Regularly updating your pet’s dog vaccinations will not only prevent infections but also minimize potential complications during surgery.

Veterinary Surgery Services and Orthopedic Care

When considering any orthopedic surgical treatment for your pet, it’s crucial to find a qualified and experienced veterinary care provider. Veterinary Associates like specialized clinics and hospitals typically offer a wide range of veterinary surgery services, including orthopedic surgeries, ensuring your pet receives the best possible care.

Veterinary Dental Surgery and Overall Health

In addition to orthopedic surgeries, pets may also require other procedures such as veterinary dental surgery if they suffer from dental problems. A vet dentist can address issues like periodontal disease, tooth extractions, and oral tumors, contributing to your pet’s overall health.

Factors to Consider Before Orthopedic Surgery

Before deciding on surgery for your pet, consider the following factors: 

  • Age and overall health of the pet 
  • Severity of the condition and potential for pain relief 
  • Risk factors and potential complications 
  • Postoperative care and rehabilitation process

Postoperative Care and Rehabilitation

After orthopedic surgery, proper postoperative care and rehabilitation are crucial in ensuring a successful recovery for your pet. This may include: 

  • Pain management 
  • Monitoring incision site and preventing complications 
  • Physical therapy and exercise for recovery 
  • Adjusting your pet’s living environment 
  • Ongoing weight management and prevention of future issues


Orthopedic surgeries for pets have come a long way in improving the lives of our furry family members. By understanding the common orthopedic issues in pets, recognizing signs that your pet may need surgery, and becoming familiar with the types of surgeries available, you can make an informed decision about your pet’s health. Don’t hesitate to consult with your veterinarian or specialized veterinary associates for guidance and recommendations tailored to your pet’s unique needs.

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